Testimony of a young Swedish heterosexual man
According to the World Health Organization, HPV (Human PapillomaVirus) infection is the world’s most common sexually transmitted infection, and the probabilities are the same for both gender. But when it comes to vaccine policies, each country has its own point of view. About 70 governments have national HPV immunization programmes, and only a quarter is gender equal. Sweden is not one of them.
Last February Italy has become the first European Country to adopt a nationwide gender-neutral HPV vaccination program. Sweden, the Worlds’s 4th most equal country in the world according to a recent report, doesn’t include boys in the vaccination program that was launched in 2012 to prevent HVP. Nowadays, the vaccine, that consists in 3 dosis, is only offered in school to girls aged 10-12. Boys have to charge with the cost of the vaccine.
To ensure the effectiveness of the vaccination against HPV, which can reduce the incidence of genital warts and cancers related to the virus, it should be administered before the sexual life debut. Cervical cancer, caused by HPV in 70%, it’s the third most common cancer in Swedish women aged 15-44 that leads to about 150 deaths every year, according to The Public Health Agency of Sweden. What is less known is that the virus generates a number of more unusual types of diseases more related to men. The cases of penile cancer, anal cancer and cancer in the head and neck area are increasing over the years. Also the European Commission granted a new indication for one of the HVP vaccines in order to prevent anal cancer in both females and males. A significant reason to make vaccination against HPV gender equal.
Scientific studies from Karolinska Institutet has also shown that HPV-vaccination effectively reduces the cases of genital warts. Since the experimentally introduction of the HPV vaccine in Sweden in 2007, the incidence of genital warts has decreased significantly among young people, especially women.
The presumption is that through girl’s vaccination boys are also protected. But that is not a fair analysis, says Mikael Jonsson who is head of the department for health and HIV-prevention at The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Rights.
The United Kingdom introduced an experimental pivot last summer to offer the HPV vaccine to gay and bisexual man aged up to 45 years. Despite the vaccine doesn’t cure a pacient that allready has genital warts, new studies point that it may work as a treatment.
Without a doubt, Australia has furthermore experience than any other country when it comes to the vaccine against the Human Papillomavirus. They introduced it in the national vaccination system for girls in 2007 and in 2013 it became gender neutral. “Arguments for extending it to boys was that the cost was justified in that it helped to prevent the spread to girls rather than as a way of protecting the boys If the boys don’t have it to pass on to them, the girls won’t catch it. It is possible that if there is a high rate of vaccination for girls, then there is not that much additional benefit (for the girls) in vaccinating boys”, argues Dr.Tony Lembke, Australian General Practitioner.
The results has been remarkable, this week the Medical Journal of Australia published a report that shown a massive drop of genital wart cases in the indigenous population from 2007 - 2014.
The public health agency of Sweden is investigating if there is a need to include boys in the national vaccine programme. M.D. Adam Roth is an analyst at the agency and he is responsible for the report.
“We started the work in November 2016 and the result of the study will be published after the summer 2017. Unfortunately I can’t give you any details of what we have found out so far”.
Meanwhile vaccination is a dilemma in many Swedish households. Emma Costa is a General Practitioner in one of the health centres of the Västra Götaland region as well as a mother of two boys, one of them 9 years old.
“Definitely vaccination should include both genders. We still haven’t decided about it, but most likely we will vaccinate our sons, it is a matter of public health”.